A letter to the editor allows you to criticize or compliment an article or series of articles from a publication. Writing a letter to the editor for a major publication like The Wall Street Journal will help you reach a number of readers from across the nation or even the world. In fact, politicians often read letters to the editor to get a better idea of how the public may feel about certain issues, making The Wall Street Journal letters to the editor section a powerful advocacy tool.
WSJ Letters to the Editor
When you want to voice your opinion on an issue about which you feel passionate, you can start a petition, begin a lobbying campaign, write a letter to a Congress member and/or write a letter to the editor. These tools will all ideally help you influence the opinion of politicians. The WSJ letters to the editor section in particular reaches a massive audience and is frequently read by the Washington elite as well as local city and state politicians. This makes it a useful tool when you want to advocate for policy changes at the local or national level.
Writing a letter to the editor allows you to bring up information not addressed in an article, even if it's an article with which you agree. Additionally, it helps make your stance on an issue seem stronger and more widespread and may even help you bring more supporters to your cause.
Submitting Letters to the WSJ
The Wall Street Journal letters to the editor and opinion editorial (op-ed) sections share similar rules for publication, which are posted on their website. The letter must be exclusive to the WSJ, must be a response to an article in the Journal (or else it's considered an op-ed), must feature a strong argument about an issue, lack jargon or industry-specific terms so everyone can understand the content and must be between 400 and 1,000 words long.
To submit a letter to the editor, address it to the letters editor, Timothy Lemmer of the WSJ. Start your email with a cover note that gives a brief summary of your letter followed by the letter itself in the body of the email. Do not submit your letter as an attachment.
Finally, include your day and evening phone numbers at the end of the letter along with your name since the WSJ, like many publications, will not publish a letter without first verifying that you wrote it. Don't worry – they won't publish your phone number. They'll only use it to contact you prior to publication. The Wall Street Journal editor contact email for Timothy Lemmer is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting Notified About Publication
The Journal will contact authors as soon as possible if they plan to publish it. Otherwise, it can take up to 10 business days for them to send a rejection due to the number of submissions received. If you do not hear back within 10 business days, you can choose to follow up, but the paper will rarely publish letters to the editor past this point, so if you haven't heard back in this time, your letter has likely been rejected.
If your letter is selected for publication, you will need to sign a contract giving the paper exclusive rights to your submission for the 30 days following its publication.
Tips for Writing a Letter
Before writing your own letter to the editor, become familiar with what makes a letter meet the WSJ's editorial standards by regularly reading other letters published in their letters to the editor section. Try to be concise and express your point in as few words as possible because there is a lot of competition for a small amount of space in the paper, and the longer your letter, the more difficult it will be for the editor to find space for it.
Also, write your letter as quickly as possible after reading the article that inspired it, as letters relating to particular articles are almost always published within a week of the original paper, and the paper will only publish a handful of letters related to an article even if they receive dozens of worthy responses to it. Be sure to mention the specific article or set of articles you are addressing in your letter, or it may seem like an op-ed.
While statistics can be useful in driving your point home, including too many can make your article feel too data heavy and hard to read, so use them sparingly. Pay particular attention to your opening line, as this is what will draw in readers and make them decide to keep reading or move on to the next letter. Also, try to keep the sentences in your letter short and punchy so they are easier to follow, making your overall letter easier to read and therefore more likely to be published.
Know Your Audience
Since newspapers try to be neutral, your letter should generally be written to sway someone with a moderate stance on the issue and not an adversary. If you write too aggressively, you might seem like an extremist, which will make you less likely to get published and less likely to sway the average reader as well.
Also, while you may have views on a number of subjects, try to keep your letter focused on one topic, as this will make you more likely to be published. This will also make you more likely to influence readers since taking on multiple issues can turn off people who might not have an opinion on one subject but have a differing viewpoint from you on another.
Try Other Papers Too
While The Wall Street Journal is a particularly well-known and widely respected newspaper, if you want to get your point across, don't limit yourself to only the WSJ. There are other papers out there with a similar readership and reputation as the WSJ (such as The New York Times), so you may want to attempt to get published there as well. Before you start with a national paper, though, you may want to start writing letters to local community newspapers first.
These smaller publications may have a smaller circulation, but they have less competition for space, so you are more likely to get published, letting you practice your craft before trying to get into the big papers. If you are published in other papers, it may also improve your writing reputation, making you more likely to get published in your target publication. Also, once you get published in a paper, you'll be more likely to get published in it again since you'll have an established relationship with the editor.
You should almost never submit the same article to multiple papers at the same time, and it's important to not do this with a letter to the editor because these are by their very nature supposed to be responses to letters that have been published in that specific paper. While you could in theory submit the same letter to multiple papers by changing the reference to articles mentioned in each paper, editors will likely see through this "form letter" approach, and you will likely not get published in any of the papers.
- The Wall Street Journal: Op-Ed Guidelines for The Wall Street Journal
- American Civil Liberties Union: Letters To The Editor: How To Write Them And Why They Work
- The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests: Letters to the Editor
- Zero to Three: How to Write a Letter to the Editor and an Opinion Editorial